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This Sunday, March 29, the WWE will be holding its biggest event of the year, Wrestlemania 31 at the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Hip-hop will be heavily represented at this year's Wrestlemania with the scheduled appearance of rap icon LL Cool J and former XXL Freshman Kid Ink.

WWE's flagship event is considered wrestling's Super Bowl and the place where wrestlers make a name for themselves in front of thousands of people in attendance and millions viewing from all over the world. The action-packed card for Wrestlemania 31 will feature the WWE Champion Brock Lesnar taking on Roman Reigns, the Undertaker versus Bray Wyatt, WWE's COO Triple H squaring off against the vigilante Sting, a 7-man ladder match for the Intercontinental title, U.S. Champion Rusev versus John Cena and Randy Orton against Seth Rollins. The WWE will also host a WrestleMania 31 Kickoff Pre-show with the Fatal 4 Way for the WWE Tag Team Titles and the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the WWE Network.

With Wrestlemania 31 only two days away, XXL caught up with Big E, Kofi Kingston, Tyson Kidd and R-Truth, who will all be in action this Sunday to find out how they get prepared for the grand stage of Wrestlemania and some of their favorite Wrestlemania moments. Most recently, these WWE superstars spoke to us about their favorite hip-hop MC's in the game and some of the songs they listen to before heading to the ring. We find out what they'll be listening to this Sunday before the main event. —Roger Krastz and Layne Weiss

KOFI-kingston

Kofi Kingston

XXL: Looking forward to Wrestlemania?
Kofi Kingston: Absolutely. You know it’s funny because it just sort of creeps up on you. You know what I mean? It’s so action packed and everything goes in fast forward mode from now until the event. So yeah, we’re looking forward to it. It’s the biggest show of the year.

What will you be doing at Wrestlemania this year?
I’m not sure right now. I mean, I definitely will be on the card in some way, shape, or form. Right now, nothing has been formally announced so we’re not 100 percent sure. There’s a lot of stuff going on. That ladder match with a whole bunch of great superstars for the Intercontinental Championship. I’m not sure, but like I said, I will be on there in some capacity. And even if I’m not, the show itself is stacking up to be really, really, really good, with all the main events with the Undertaker coming back to face Bray Wyatt and Sting’s facing Triple H. And everything else going on. So it’s gonna be awesome.

Who do you think is going to win the match between Undertaker and Bray Wyatt?
It’ll be really interesting. If you would have asked me like a year ago I would have said Undertaker because he had never lost at Wrestlemania. But then he lost to Brock Lesnar. So it’s like when Rocky made the Russian bleed. Mick comes out of the corner and he’s like, “He’s just a man. He’s human.” So now I feel like Undertaker is beatable, ya know? Because it has been done. So if anyone can do it again, it might be Bray. Either way it’s gonna be an interesting match with two really cool characters squaring up against each other. It’s kinda like a fantasy booking situation where you’re like, “What would happen if Bray Wyatt faced the Undertaker?” And we’re all gonna find out at Wrestlemania.

Who do you think will win that Sting/Triple H match? That sounds like another dream match.
Yeah, man. You know who the real winners are? The fans who get to see it. Because I know a lot of people, myself included, who never expected to see Sting in a WWE ring, and now it is happening. It’s Triple H in there with him, too. So any time Triple H has a match at Wrestlemania, it’s always an awesome match. Now you get to see these guys go up against each other. I’m pulling for Sting. I was always a big Sting fan with the colorful rainbow face paint and also with the Crow-like, black and white stuff. So I’m pulling for Sting, but we’ll see.

What are your three favorite Wrestlemania moments of all time?
Well, selfishly, I was gonna make all of them include myself, but I’ll only do that for two of them. My favorite one was my first Money In The Bank match. I believe it was in 2009. It was the first time I got to be on Wrestlemania. And you know, ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a WWE superstar. So I always pictured myself in Wrestlemania matches. So when that happened it was like a dream come true, literally. So that’s probably my top favorite moment.

My second favorite moment is when Shawn Michaels faced the Undertaker. That to me was awesome. I got to watch it from the crowd. It was just an amazing match. Shawn Michaels is one of my favorite competitors of all time. And just to see him in there with Undertaker, them going back and forth, like from their entrances all the way to the end... And again, I got to be out in the crowd to watch that, which I normally don’t get to do.

And my third favorite Wrestlemania moment would probably be the Money In The Bank I was in. I believe it was my second. I’m terrible with years so it was either 2010 or 2011. But I got to walk on stilts. Basically, Kane had split a ladder in half and I got to use those two parts of the ladder to kind of walk myself to the middle of the ring and climb up, which was a pretty cool moment.

Who’s been your favorite hip-hop guest in the WWE so far?
Probably Snoop just because I grew up on Snoop. When I got Doggystyle, I got this deal like nine CDs for a penny at Columbia House. And I started blasting that CD on my stereo at home, and my mom actually took it away from me. So she had it for like six months and finally I got enough courage to go back and like steal it back and listen to it. So it was a struggle to get that album and listen to it. It’s obviously a classic, one of the first CDs that I had that I listened to from start to finish. So when Snoop came on our show, and I got a chance to meet him... He was on Wrestlemania a few years ago and he’s also been a guest host on Raw. And just a really, really cool dude. You know, it’s one of those situations where you have someone you look up to and you admire growing up, and then you actually meet them in person, and they don’t let you down. You know what I’m saying? And it was great. He was probably my favorite.

If you could have one rapper or hip-hop group walk you down to the ring for a match, who would it be and why?
It would probably be DMX. He’s just... Ya know, what I like to do when I get out there is I just get everybody pumped up. I get everybody hyped. And I think few people would argue with the fact that DMX comes out and he gets people hyped. I would have him sing the intro song from his It's Dark And Hell Is Hot. I love the build-up for the song, and the baseline and then he’s just hyped the whole time. And the song has those bells. And I just feel like any time you put bells into a hip-hop song, it gives you that serious tone, and it just pumps you up. So DMX. He’d definitely be my hype man, for sure.

If you could choose one hip-hop record to be your entrance theme, which would it be and why?
Honestly, I’d probably go back to It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, ya know? Again, one of the few…a classic CD or album that you can play from start to finish, and it just has a tone that is hype. And that’s me in the ring. When I’m in the ring, I do things that are exciting. I do things that have never been seen before. I like to keep people on their toes and I keep people on their feet. So anytime I listen to that DMX album, you know, I’m always on my feet and hyped up.

What’s the best hip-hop concert you’ve ever been to?
Myself and my brothers from The New Day got to see Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I forget what city it was in. It was literally right after a show and it was right across the street. We went to go see Bone and it was great because, you know, again, another group of guys who got me into hip-hop. And it was just cool to be there in their presence.

But I would like to see Kendrick Lamar live and in concert. I like the older hip-hop, you know what I’m saying?  I’m more of a throwback type guy, you know. Like late '90s, early 2000s... But Kendrick Lamar is doing some things now that are incredible. I actually haven’t heard his new album yet, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. So I’ll probably end up downloading that this weekend.

What are your favorite songs to listen to for workouts or just to get pumped before a match?
I keep going back to that DMX album. Anything DMX. Older Kanye stuff as well, kinda like to warm up. Kanye just came out with a new one too, “All Day.” I’ve been listening to that on repeat, actually. Like I just heard it on Spotify before we went to the gym like last week. And then when we got to the gym I immediately downloaded it and listened to it for my entire workout on repeat. It’s funny 'cause I would always get mad at my dad because he would always play music throughout the house on like a 90-minute tape, and it would have the same songs play over and over. I used to get mad at that but now fast forward, here I am, doing the same exact thing.

LL Cool J is going to be part of this year’s Wrestlemania festivities. What should the WWE Universe expect from his appearance?
Well, you know, going back to guys who are constantly reinventing themselves and delivering, you gotta talk about LL, man. He’s been able to stay relevant and stay popular over like three generations, pretty much. From “Mama Said Knock You Out” to “Who Do You Love?” and doing stuff now, films and stuff like that. So I think LL being a part of the WWE festivities goes hand in hand because he is a natural born entertainer as are all of us.

What are some of your favorite wrestling references in hip-hop?
Action Bronson has a song called “Barry Horowitz” and honestly, I don’t think it really has anything to do with wrestling, but the fact that out of all the wrestlers he could have picked to rap about he picked Barry Horowitz, it goes to show you what a big fan he is. And Lil Wayne has a song too, “Young Playa,” and he talks about “Million Dollar Man,” Ted Dibiase. A lot of artists refer to Ted Dibiase because he has so much money, and money goes hand-in-hand with hip-hop too.

NEWDAY-big-e

Big E

XXL: How much have you enjoyed your role with New Day? 
Big E: I think the biggest thing for us is there’s been a lot of ups and downs with the path I think people remember very briefly the first introduction with the three of us on TV—Xavier Woods coming out with the Colonel Sanders suit in white and red after Kofi Kingston and I lost the tag match and cutting that promo and I think that was kind of the original incarnation of the group in terms of the direction we thought we were going. But I think it went a different way and we were off TV for a little bit, but I think the biggest thing for all three of us is that all three of us are friends outside of the ring. We travel together, we on the road so much we almost do everything together. So the fact that we all believe in our talents and ability and have the opportunity to get to speak on television and be a group is the biggest thing and I know there’s a lot of opinions on what we should be and the direction of the group. But it's an opportunity for us and that’s something that we’re really excited about, is getting the opportunity. We all feel like we’re not where we want to be at right now as far as the amount success we’ve had, but we’re excited about the future and we really feel like we can do a lot of great things.

If you were to win the belts, would the two winners of the match keep it? Or would you rotate the belt around?
I don’t know; that’s something we definitely talked about. We definitely don’t see anyone in a managerial position and that’s something we would like to embrace. We are pushing for the tag titles as a team, so that all three of us can defend it. The biggest thing is winning them in the first place.

What would it mean for you and the rest of New Day to win the tag team titles?
That would be big for us because right now, since that’s where we’re positioned at, the goal is to be in that mix of tag teams or as a combination tag team competing for the gold. When you’re a tag team you definitely want to win the titles. And for us to put the amount of work in; and that’s one thing that I feel a lot of people will never know, the amount of work that goes into just getting us into the position on our end, all of the stuff that happens backstage, all the amount of planning that we’ve done. It's been a lot. For all of us, this is by far is the biggest project for us, as far as going above and beyond just to get this thing off the ground. So obviously winning the tag titles would be the culmination of a lot of hard work.

How do you get prepared for an event like Wrestlemania?
I think the main thing is you want to enjoy the grand nature of the stage. And it’s Wrestlemania. You always want to give it its proper respect. There are way more people, but in many ways I think the larger the stage the easier it is, because when you look around and you see six people in the crowd you notice all six faces but when it's 80,000-90,000 people, it's just a sea. So as far as that’s concerned that’s not going to make our job any more difficult. That’s not like an added pressure, it’s something that excites us a little bit more.

Who do you think will win the match between Sting and Triple H?
Man... I think the fact that it’s the first time for Sting competing in a WWE ring and especially in the big stage this Sunday, I think he’s going to go out there and prove himself. It will definitely be an interesting match. I think if I was forced to pick a winner I would go with Sting.

Who do you think will win between Bray Wyatt and the Undertaker?
It shocked so many people last year that 'Taker lost to Brock and I wonder if that mystique is gone and the interesting thing about this match is that this might be the passing of a torch. There’s a lot of similarities between both. There’s a natural build and feel to see Bray and Taker in the same ring and I think this would be a good sendoff for Taker since a lot of people have speculated that this could be his last Wrestlemania. I think it would be good to see the peasing of the torch and for Bray to take this one.

What are your three favorite Wrestlemania moments? 
I definitely have to say the IC ladder match with Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon. Selfishly, I would say myself. My first one—me and Dolph versus Team Hell No and probably the first match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25.

If you could have one rapper or hip-hop group walk you to the ring for a match, who would that be?
I think for many reasons right now my favorite group in hip-hop—and just because of the relationship we’ve been able to build—I'd definitely go with the Flatbush Zombies. Those guys are such big fans and know it would mean a lot to them and also it would mean a lot to me to even have the opportunity. The cool thing is that I actually got to hang out at Juice's apartment a while ago when we were in Brooklyn and they got old WWE Magazines. Just the coffee table they would have old things from when we were kids. They re such big fans of what we do and to see that glee that they have for what we do, youthful enthusiasm and how much they love wrestling, I know they would bring the proper perspective to that. So I would definitely go with Flatbush Zombies.

Hip-hop suffered a huge loss with the passing of A$AP Yams. I did see you comment on his death on Twitter. Did you ever get a chance to personally meet him and speak about wrestling and hip-hop?
We never spoke in person; we would talk back and forth via direct message on Twitter and obviously it's very sad, his passing. He’s one of those guys who was also a wrestling fan. I think a couple of times I got him tickets to shows, but every now and then he would just drop me a line just being supportive. He said a lot of very nice things to me, so obviously hearing about his passing was very sad for me to hear and just knowing his place in hip-hop and what he’s done. I’m a big fan of A$AP Mob. I love the music that they put out. And Yams’ impact, not just in hip-hop music, but in fashion, with culture and reading a lot of his interviews and realizing the vision that Yams had for A$AP Mob and for hip-hop, was very inspiring. And I just really appreciated his vision for trying to do more. So overall for me it was just very sad.

r-truth

R-Truth

XXL: How are you physically and mentally preparing for your seven-man ladder match this Sunday at Wrestlemania 31?
R-Truth: Really man, there’s no way of getting mentally and physically prepared for a ladder match. I’ve been in many of them and you have to go in knowing that you are going to get beaten and bruised up. I’m going up against six other guys so it’s really unpredictable how they are going to use their styles. My thing is, watch these guys and see what they are going to do, and once the right moment comes I’ll make my move to the ladder, climb up and try to get that Intercontinental Championship belt.

These last couple of weeks you’ve been slick and stealing the Intercontinental belt from Wade Barrett. How much have you enjoyed that role?
I love it, man. We doing a cat and mouse-type of thing. I think the fans love it and the drama. It adds excitement and mischief to the whole ordeal.

You created the hashtag #GiveTruthAChance which allowed you to get in the match this Sunday at Wrestlemania. How surprised were you that fans reacted so positively to the hashtag?
I was very surprised. I didn’t think it was going to take off like it did. Michael Cole and I came up with the hashtag and it was amazing to see it blow up the way it did thanks to the WWE Universe.

What would it mean for you to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania this Sunday?
Oh man... That would be me reaching another pinnacle in my career. That would be all that and a bag of chips.

Who do you think is going to win between Triple H and Sting this Sunday?
That’s going to be a clash of the titans right there, you know what I’m saying? You’re talking about two dominant figures in the sports and entertainment world. Both are legends. I think it’s going to be a really good match and both are going to bring their A game because both are going to be on point for the match.

How does it feel to have Sting in the WWE now?
Everybody loves Sting. That goes from the fans to the kids to the guys in the back. Expect maybe Triple H. [Laughs]

The WWE Universe was in shock last year after the Undertaker lost at Wrestlemania 30. Do you see the Deadman losing again at this year’s Wrestlemania?
Man... You never say never in this business. Both guys got something to prove right now. Bray is trying to put a notch in his belt right now. He’s trying to be hungry right now and Undertaker has to prove right now that he’s still king of the throne.

What are your three favorite Wrestlemania matches of all time?
That’s a hard one, but I’m going to say last year’s match between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar was a shocker for everyone. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels was a really good match in my opinion and believe it or not Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan.

I know last year you were working on your next album and trying to get Wiz Khalifa on one of your tracks. Can you give us on update on the project and did you manage to get the 16 from Wiz?
The project is coming along great. I’m getting ready to release the first single in mid-April or first week of May. Me and Wiz spoke about it a couple of weeks ago and now it’s just a matter of him dropping his 16 on there. I have a total of 15 records done, but for right now we are just going to test the waters and drop a single at a time. My first single will be titled "Me, Myself and I." I’m thinking about dropping a rock version along with the hip-hop version.

You met Tupac back in the day. What was that interaction like?
Oh man, it was like meeting an iconic figure. I met him at the early breakthrough of his career. He had just filmed the movie Juice and meeting him was inspiring on one hand and on the other hand it was like, he had that "it" factor. He was charismatic. He was lovable. He just had everything you want from a celebrity.

If you could have one rapper walk you to the ring who would that be and why?
I would probably have Lil Wayne. I love that guy. I’ve been a Wayne fan since the Hot Boys. He was young at the time but he could spit and he’s still dropping heat to this day. He’s inspiring, man.

Do you think Wayne will ever drop that Carter V album?
I don’t know, man. He’s so unpredictable that he may release a mixtape next week. You never know with him. Everything that Wayne does is nice, so hopefully that album drops in the near future.

If you could come down the ring to any hip-hop track, what song would that be?
Oh man, you put me on the spot. [Laughs] But I would go with the 2 Chainz track “I Do It” featuring Lil Wayne.

What else should we expect from you in the WWE ring?
You can expect a lot more entertainment. A lot more truth. You can expect a lot more of that unpredictable mischievousness.

tyson-kidd

Tyson Kidd

XXL: Wrestlemania 31 is coming up. Can you tell us what you have planned?
Tyson Kidd: We [Tyson and his tag partner Cesaro] have a lot planned. We’re definitely looking forward to defending the WWE Tag Team Championship. So we’re just kinda evaluating the landscape still. It hasn’t quite been announced yet... So we’re just kinda seeing what tag teams have stepped up to the plate. To be honest, I don’t know if any have truly stepped up to the level of myself or Cesaro, but those are almost un-accomplishable goals. The standards are a little too high. So we might have to lower our standards a touch just so we are able to defend our titles at Wrestlemania. So we’re just evaluating everybody at the moment.

This year’s Wrestlemania has some pretty amazing matches happening, such as Triple H vs. Sting. Who do you think’s gonna win that one?
Sting has never been in a WWE match, ever. So this is a pretty special match and I don’t know... I hate to say it, but does Sting have ring rust and does that kind of play a factor and Triple H picks up the win? Or is Sting training every day, which he looked like when I saw him on Raw? So I don’t know. That one’s a wild card. I really don’t know what’s going to go down. I think anything can go down in that match. That one’s very interesting. Like I said, it’s the very first time that Sting has ever had an actual match in the WWE. And it’s at Wrestlemania...

Another huge match the WWE Universe is looking forward to is Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt. What are your thoughts on that one?
I think if anyone matches up with the Undertaker, with the whole eerie [thing]... And I don’t know, Bray likes to be a bit of a weirdo. So if you wanna go down that avenue with the Undertaker, I think nobody matches up better with the Undertaker over these past 23 years of [Undertaker matches] Wrestlemania... I don’t know if anybody matches up quite as well on that side of things as Bray Wyatt does. So I think that makes for a very interesting match. This is the first time they’ve ever met. That’s thing about Wrestlemania. A lot of dream matches take place, a lot of first time matches take place. And again, this is the first time that these two [Undertaker and Bray Wyatt] have ever been in the ring together. When it’s two people and it’s the first time they’ve been in the ring together, the canvas is really blank and anything can happen on that canvas. You’ve never seen it, so your imagination runs wild. Mine does. There’s a million possibilities of what can happen. Who knows? Maybe Bray has some tricks up his sleeve and he calls the Wyatt Family back. But otherwise, I think Undertaker’s probably pretty angry from last year [Getting beaten by Brock Lesnar, ending his undefeated streak]. So, it’ll be very interesting to see. Undertaker is 21-1 now. I don’t see him losing two in a row.

I noticed your tag partner Cesaro wearing headphones to the ring on Raw Monday.
Yes, yes. Cesaro has decided to wear them now, too. What happened was I was in a singles match, so I came out and I had the headphones out. Normally I’ll turn them off and then hand them to the ring guy. But we were kind of locked in the corner with the way the Usos were standing. And I didn’t turn them off. I just put the headphones up and they were like vibrating. So he [Cesaro] puts them on and was kinda like walking around the ring with them. And then in the back he’s like, “Man, the stuff you’re listening to is hilarious. But the sound is awesome. I was like in my own world for a second.” He’s like, “Hey, do you mind if I come out with the headphones on too?” So that’s kinda how that evolved.

Several hip-hop acts have appeared on WWE. Who’s been your favorite hip-hop guest so far?
Definitely when I met Snoop Dogg. He’s been with WWE quite a few times. But I think that as a kid, he was the first rapper that I actually listened to. It was hilarious, too. It was like a tape with two sides. He was the first rapper I listened to. So to meet Snoop was the coolest thing because that was the first guy where I was like, “Whoa. What is this stuff, this rap music?" It was just crazy. So for me that was really cool because that was like the first guy. And then meeting Wiz Khalifa two weeks ago. I thought that was really cool because I’m a big fan. I have a bunch of his albums as well. I think overall I would say Snoop [was my favorite] but that’s because he’s probably done the most.

If you could have one hip-hop artist or rap group walk you to the ring for a match, who would it be and why?
I would have to say Eminem. I think he reinvents himself all the time. He’s pretty untouchable. I don’t think there’s anyone who can really match him. When he’s on, there’s nothing quite like Eminem.

If you could choose any hip-hop record to use as your entrance theme, what record would it be and why?
I think I would have to say... It would definitely have to be an edited version, obviously, but I would have to choose Makaveli, The Don Killuminati. It’s a different side of Tupac. There are definitely a lot of very hard tracks. We see the same Tupac, but we also see a very different side. A lot of it’s very hard and very intense. And a lot of it is very articulate, obviously, and very intelligent. So I’d have to come out to that.

What’s the best hip-hop show you’ve ever attended? 
One of the guys I used to work with got me tickets to a Snoop show. He was a bodyguard for Snoop and he called me up when he left WWE. And he said, “Hey, man. Snoop’s coming to Tampa next week. I can get you VIP tickets.” And of course, I was on the road. I’m on the road a lot and before that, I lived in Calgary, and not too much hip-hop stuff was happening when I was there. So I’ve had the unfortunate end of the stick where it’s hard to catch a concert. But I plan to get to some. I will.

What are your favorite hip-hop songs to listen to get pumped for a match?
Definitely songs like “Hit Em Up” are pretty good for a workout. “Been Gettin Money” by Jeezy is another good one. I’m really bad with the names. I just have them all on my iPod on shuffle to kind of surprise me as to what’s next. But definitely “Hit Em Up,” obviously. I’d say that’s classic, especially when you’re getting ready for battle.

What can the WWE Universe expect with LL Cool J being a part of this year’s Wrestlemania festivities?
I think it’s very cool. Again, it shows that correlation with WWE and hip-hop, and just that the line’s pretty thin between the two. It’s easy to come across and to kind of delve into our world if you’re in the hip-hop world. The WWE Universe gets it. The WWE superstars get it. So I think LL Cool J... I think it’s the same thing. I haven’t seen him in a while but I remember there was a time where he was really jacked too, and he was another guy that at one time was tailor-made for WWE. So, who knows? Maybe Wrestlemania’s where he starts and maybe he sticks around for a while.

What are some of your favorite wrestling references in hip-hop?
Big Pun would sometimes sneak some in. He would talk about [Ted] Dibiase. Obviously Wu-Tang Clan. They throw in a ton of wrestling references. So definitely guys like that.

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